Bringing skills and education closer

SourceBusiness Standard

Relevance: Skill development and education need to be integrated to provide better results.

Synopsis:

Skill development is a multi-dimensional problem. But the linking skilling and education is one of the crucial ones.

The situation of skill development in India:
  • Over 70 percent of India’s workforce is concentrated in firms with less than 20 employees. Studies carried out in 2016 as part of an Asian Development Bank report suggest that micro-firms are 72 percent less likely to train their workers.
  • Similarly, while 80 percent of India’s workforce is employed in informal firms, only 3 percent of workers are formally trained.
The link between education and skill development:

The ultimate purpose of education is not only employment and employability, but something far more impressive. It is generally agreed that access to early, holistic, and life-long skilling and learning opportunities are crucial to improving employability, entrepreneurship, and workforce adaptability.

  • General education should mean the attainment of an integrated set of foundational and transferable skills.
    • Foundational skills are basic cognitive skills such as numeracy, literacy, etc.
    • Transferable skills are social, communication, and behavioural skills that help navigate the work environment
  • Increasingly, it is evident from various studies that skills have a strong impact on labour market outcomes, including wages, productivity, and adaptability to the changing work environment.
  • Hence, there is a strong argument for developing a holistic skill focus that is not only limited to vocational education.
Advantages of integrating education with skill development:
  • Imparting holistic skills can help make school-to-work transition smoother. Recognising and imparting technical skills can make education more attuned to market and employer demand.
  • Further, In addition, integration of education and skilling pathways can ensure that learners who enter the workforce with limited school education receive training that is crucial to succeeding in the labour market.
  • With the increased contractualisation of labour, the incentives for formal firms to train workers are declining even more. In such a situation, the primary and foremost opportunity to skill young people are when they are still a part of the educational system.

Integrating education with skilling is therefore the easiest path forward.

The impact of the pandemic on skill development and education:

Education:

The pandemic has had an enormous impact on the education sector (leading to learning losses, increase in school dropouts). The poorest and most vulnerable children lost out, as the site of learning shifted from the classroom to online platforms.

Skill development:

In addition, the pandemic has also rapidly altered the nature of work. As workplaces increasingly shift to a hybrid mode of functioning. New kinds of skills have become more valuable. For example, digital skills have now become a core foundational skill.

As workplaces are rapidly changing, a key skill needed for the future is the ability to “learn to learn” and “adapt” to new modes of working.

Suggestions:

Strong foundational skills are necessary to ensure that workers are adaptive to change. The challenges (and opportunities) posed by the Covid-19 crisis make it the right time to bring formal education and vocational education and training closer together. It can be done by the following steps,

  • Mandate a holistic skills provision across ITIs, schools, and colleges.
  • Develop a common vocational skills curriculum and adopt a credit framework that helps improve mobility between skilling and general education

Hopefully, the recent decision to place these two crucial ministries(Education and skill development) under the charge of one cabinet minister is the first step in this long-overdue integration, which is necessary for better outcomes.

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